Trio lead the way in decisive third round

  • Iran, Australia and Saudi Arabia opened brightly with two wins from two matches

  • Korea Republic and Japan bounced back after dropping points on the opening day

  • Oman produced the biggest surprise with a historic win in Japan

There were mixed outings for Asia's 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ representatives as the race for Qatar 2022 reached the decisive third qualifying round in the world’s largest continent. IR Iran, Australia and Saudi Arabia made perfect starts with two wins from two outings, but the likes of Korea Republic and Japan had to put aside disappointing performances in their respective openers to bounce back to winning form. Oman produced the biggest surprise downing hosts Japan 1-0 in the opener while United Arab Emirates remained undefeated coming up with a pair of draws. Lebanon and Syria picked up just a point each while pointless China PR and Vietnam were left still searching for their first point. Join as we take a closer look at the action across Asia.

The match

Iraq 0-3 IR Iran Khalifa International Stadium, Doha It seems that each time these two neighbouring long-term rivals meet it is a tight and fiercely matchup. For once, though, that wasn’t the case as Iraq, ostensibly the home side, crashed to a heavy defeat in neutral Doha. Team Melli took a giant stride towards Qatar 2022 qualification with a resounding 3-0 victory in what was the pair’s third meeting of this campaign. Feyenoord midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh headed Iran ahead inside three minutes, before Porto forward Mehdi Taremi scored from close range in the second half to double the lead. Belgium-based Ali Gholizadeh iced the cake in the closing minute to seal the emphatic win.

Memorable moments

Australian dominance Australia maintained their perfect record in Qatar 2022 qualifying as they seek to reach a fifth successive World Cup. Graham Arnold's Socceroos opened brightly with a 3-0 defeat of China PR and, despite being reduced to fewer chances by hosts Vietnam in the second outing, Rhyan Grant headed home the only goal, his first for the national team.

Vietnam's first goal Third round debutants Vietnam were dealt a brutal awakening after suffering two opening losses. Despite this, Park Hangseo's Golden Star Warriors did put in some brave showings. They opened the scoring in the opener against hosts Saudi Arabia when Nguyen Quang Hai scored their first-ever goal in this stage inside three minutes which proved the opening matchday's fastest goal, before pushing the Socceroos all the way in Hanoi. Milestone victory for Oman Issam Al Sabhi scored the only goal two minutes from time in the opener as Branko Ivankovic's Oman memorably clinched their first-ever win against hosts Japan in FIFA World Cup qualifying. Before this match, the two sides had met eight times in the qualifying scene over the past 16 years with Oman having lost six and drawn two. Hour-mark striker Kwon Changhoon came to Korea Republic's rescue, scoring from an acute angle just before the hour-mark to seal a hard-fought victory against Lebanon, after the continental heavyweights had been held to a goalless draw at home by Iraq in the opener. Kwon’s strike was reminiscent of his showing against the same opponents on the road to Russia 2018 when he sealed a 3-0 win with an hour-mark strike. Japan fightback Japan put their unexpected 1-0 opening defeat by Oman behind them as they bounced back with a deserved solitary-goal victory against China PR. Yuya Osako scored the crucial goal five minutes from the break in Doha. Four years back, the Samurai Blue also overcame a slow start in this stage - they lost 2-1 against United Arab Emirates in the opener – before going on an eight-match undefeated streak to book qualification for Russia 2018 with a game to spare. Top marksman United Arab Emirates ace-striker Ali Mabkhout consolidated his place at the top of the global qualifying goalscoring chart by opening the scoring in the 1-1 draw against Syria. The ever-reliable forward now has 12 goals to his credit during the Qatar 2022 campaign, with Japan pair Takumi Minamino and Osako his nearest challengers in the AFC region. Jahanbakhsh on fire Alireza Jahanbakhsh was on target in each game as IR Iran made two wins out of two to move top of Group A. The attacker saved Team Melli's blushes by striking the match-winning goal against Syria in the opener before scoring early to set the team on the path to a 3-0 victory against Iraq.

Yuya Osako of Japan celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Japan and China PR.

Did you know?

IR Iran continued their perfect run under Dragan Skocic with the Iraq victory extending their winning streak under the Croatian manager to nine. Skocic, who took over from Marc Wilmots a year and half ago, was still in his recovery from Covid-19. Australia are enjoying a similar winning run as they became the first nation to record ten straight wins in a single AFC World Cup qualifying campaign.